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Ghost Canyon

Nick Nolte ('The Good Thief') Nick Nolte ('The Good Thief')
'How To Steal The Spotlight'

Nick Nolte was born on February 8, 1941 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was raised in both Iowa and Nebraska and showed very little interest in the theatre or movies when he was a young boy. It wasn’t until after he saw a production of Arthur Miller’s 'Death of a Salesman' in 1962, that Nolte realized what his true calling in life was, yet until he was in his thirties he spent his career acting in theatre and in small television roles.

In 1975, Nolte’s acting career took off when he was cast as Tom Jordache in the television mini-series "Rich Man, Poor Man." Throughout his life, Nolte has chosen roles that were challenging in high-quality, even sometimes low-budget films and has since acted in over forty movies. Never comfortable at playing the Hollywood game, in recent years his choice of roles have seen him move further away from the mainstream. He specialises in playing deeply troubled men, such as the glory-seeking general in 'The Thin Red Line' or the paranoid lawman in 'Affliction'. And now in Neil Jordan's 'The Good Thief', he's the junkie gambler Bob, a charismatic American expat down on his luck in the French Riviera. Chatting with Nick recently, I first wondered how he got involved in this new project? "Neil Jordan called me out of the blue when I was in a Sam Shepard play in San Francisco. I didn't quite know what to make of the script. I didn't reject it but I didn't totally embrace it after the first reading. Sometimes screenplays are like that. Often, when I'm up in the air about it, there's usually something in it that I can't see."

So how did Neil Jordan persuade you to take the role of Bob the gambler? "I talked to him a bit and he discussed the cast, saying it would be all European actors, and I started to get excited about it. We discussed the expatriate American quality to Bob, and gambling - I am a gambler in a lot of ways - and by the end of the evening I said to Neil, "Do you really want to do this?". He said "Yes" I said "Well I really want to do it too". And then I proceeded to go to work on it. I found all these wonderful layers and dimensions to the role. Bob is not all one dimensional, he's not all good, which is the Hollywood mainstream thing."

What do you mean by "going to work" on a character? "In the case of Bob, it's a lot to do with really knowing what a gambler is going after. We had this good book by Jack Black called "Money Spinners" that discussed the nature of gambling. There are self-evident things that you just haven't thought of. One of the aspects is that gamblers have trouble with authority. In robbing the casino they are trying to beat that. That reaches right into Bob's connection as a thief and to his addiction, which is a rebellion against his own personal authority."

Bob's motto, "Play the game to the limit and damn the consequences", seems to sum up the film! "That's what the film espouses - to live passionately with life. Gamblers are trying to get out of the rut of living on memory and live instead on the moment. They propel themselves onto a game where they are going to lose it all, because that's how they become alive. It's the same thing in the film with those involved in the heist."

Interviewed by Jason Powell for Exclusive Magazine

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